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How to Improve Your eCommerce SEO (My #1 Tip)

Ecommerce SEO Tips

How to Improve Your eCommerce SEO (My #1 Tip)

 

Many people know SEO to varying degrees.

Many people know how to build and run an eCommerce store to varying degrees.

But how many people can do both? Effectively?

With so much advice and so many things to do, where do you start? There are many tasks that can drastically improve your SEO, but today I wanted to share what I believe is the absolute best eCommerce SEO tip that will improve your SEO rank, engage your visitors and lift your conversions.

So what is it?

 

Write Amazing, High Quality Product Page Content

If you think you’ve heard this before, try to understand what I mean by amazing – by reading a bit further.

There’s a why and an ever-important how that will make the what make sense.

Before we get into the HOW, let’s quickly discuss the why, and how it really connects to SEO and Google.

In today’s SEO world where the Google Rank Brain machine learning algo is constantly improving user experience, it is uber important to write compelling content that keeps users engaged. Why?  Long clicks, (visits that stay on site for a long time after leaving the SERP) and Length of Content are Google ranking factors.

And let’s be honest, even when Google didn’t give merit to some of these factors before Rank Brain, long clicks, often known to webmasters by analyzing time on page, has always been a conversion factor. Think about it: if you keep people on your page longer, you are more likely to convert these engaged visitors.

There have been tests for the last couple years now (by MOZ and others) that show SEO rankings increase by people coming to your site and hanging around. In other words, if they land there and bounce, Google drops that page for the terms they searched due to users not finding relevance and/or quality when they arrive.

High quality content engages visitors and improves SEO in so many ways.

In fact, about 1/2 of the top 20 (of 200) Google Ranking Factors are related to Content and on-page SEO.

 

High Quality SEO Content

I have always been a strong advocate for high quality content. But let’s be honest. It is time consuming. It takes a lot of time to write content for your website. There are quality freelancers out there. On Upwork, Freelancer.com and others. But once you find a good writer, keep them around for awhile. They are hard to come by.

My friend Aaron Orendorff over at Iconicontent uses the tag line “Saving the world from bad content.” And he means it. He is not a run of the mill copywriter. Aaron has been writing amazing stuff since way before I met him a few years ago.

He not only knows how to write awesome content, but he knows how to weave the content into SEO funnels that drive more customers through your funnel to your product or service.

High quality content is what makes great blogs. An eCommerce website that leverages blogs the right way can create awesome content to drive quality leads into your funnel.

But as an eCommerce owner/manager you have an opportunity to showcase your product with content that is the very closest to your money pages. The product page IS the money page.

If you drive customers from that HQ blog post to your product page, and your product pages look like your driver’s license – one image and some numbers and a couple of words – then you lose. Unless your driver’s license is compelling for other reasons.

 

Thor SEO License

So, blog content, yes. But writing content closer to your products is where the magic happens. Since optimizing the content on your money pages can improve your search rankings for high-intent buy keywords, and grow your revenue… can you see why this is my favorite eCommerce SEO tip?

 

How Does a Compelling Product Description Look?

So how do you truly optimize and upgrade your product descriptions?

In simple terms, you think outside of the box. Get creative. Think from the customer’s point of view. What features makes your customers go, hm? What makes your product special?

If you are selling a product from a manufacturer, then sure, start with the manufacturer description as a bare bones template. But copy-edit it. Iterate. Be creative. Stand out from all the other guys who are carrying the same stuff. I know what you’re thinking. How do you describe a pair of cotton socks? (worst case right?)

Even if you don’t think your product is special, how can you tell a fascinating story and engage your customers to want to buy?

C’mon. Haven’t you heard of The J. Peterman Company? If so – great! You get 1000 points.

If not, then how about Seinfeld? If you haven’t heard of Seinfeld, you can stop reading this right now. You live in a box. Or you are so busy growing your business, that you don’t watch TV, which is acceptable I suppose.

Remember Elaine’s boss? J. Peterman.

J Peterman SEO

J. Peterman was the eccentric owner of a catalog sales company, who was portrayed by John O’Hurley. The Seinfeld character was based on the real J. Peterman, who owns the J. Peterman Company, which is an actual retail clothing company.

Yes, they are a catalog clothing company, but they also have a web storefront.

Those who know the J. Peterman story, know where I am going. Let’s contrast a J. Peterman product description with another popular brand.

Let’s start by looking at the Sunglass Hut first. Here is their product description for a pair of their Aviator glasses:

One of the most iconic styles in the world, the original Ray-Ban metal Aviator ™ has been reinvented with new mirrored flash lenses. Ray-Ban is known for exceptional quality, performance, and comfort. And the extra pop of color will ensure you never go unnoticed!

Ray Ban Aviators ecommerce seo

Sure, that’s nice. Sunglass Hut is a great brand. They have been around for awhile. And their site is well optimized. All in all, they have nice product pages. But there is much room for improvement.

Now let’s look at a product description for a pair of J. Peterman – Fort Knox aviators (from my 1991 J. Peterman Owner’s Manual No. 14 – which was also featured on their website):

For combat pilots, there are moments when distance and depth-of-field judgments, undistorted color-value relationships, UV (a & b) and infrared infiltration, glare and haze suppression, and other factors, can be a matter of life and death.

Strolling along Rodeo Drive in your $250 “designer” sunglasses, these factors are not, perhaps, a matter of life and death.

Good thing they’re not. Disturbing instances of expensive, supposedly reputable sunglasses failing to adequately filter harmful UV radiation are not rare; nor the converse; $5 sunglasses that test far better than the $250 kind. The problem is, how do you know which is which?

You don’t. That’s what we like about these; they meet all 26 pages of specifications for U.S. Military use by pilots. They are made by Randolph Engineering, who supplies the U.S. Air Force. They don’t cost $250, or $125, or $75. They cost $48. You can buy them from us, or at the PX at Fort Knox. either way, you can stop worrying. You’ve got the best.

But that’s not all. They finished with a note at the bottom of the page:

Operation Desert Storm.

A Wall Street Journal report on sophisticated dark glasses issued to pilots of Stealth bombers in the Persian Gulf provoked a million phone calls; where can civilians buy a pair, people wanted to know. 

Callers were referred to Randolph Engineering, the manufacturer, who said they did know of a place; The J. Peterman Co.

The J. Peterman description reads more like story than a boring product description?

Here is another one to give you a better visual:

J Peterman Untamed

Now – before you go and try to build all your product descriptions out like J. Peterman you need to keep some things in mind. J. Peterman wasn’t trying to SEO optimize their product pages. They were building a brand.

But I used this example to show how you could write longer, unique content that is engaging. If you can do it while running an SEO filter, you would have a winning combination.

Sunglass Hut has brand recognition.

But if you ever wondered how to compete with Brand X, a more known brand, now you know one important component.

Answer: Upgrade your Product Descriptions. Engage your users with high quality content.

Even the big brands have room for improvement. Capitalize on that.

 

What Else to Consider When Upgrading Your Product Pages

If you are wondering how many words you should write, there have been industry studies about this. And in the on-page SEO section of this awesome Ecommerce SEO Guide by Brian Dean, he says you should write 1000+ word product descriptions. Wha??

Brian Dean ecommerce seo

His exact words are, “The fact is this: Google wants to understand what your page is all about. And the more content you provide, the better Google can do it’s job. Plus, when you publish long content, customers can better understand what they’re about to buy.

It might be impossible for you to write 1000 words for EVERY page on your site. If that’s the case, I recommend writing long, in-depth descriptions for your 50-100 top-priority product and category pages.”

And that’s the key. You don’t have to get overwhelmed if you have 60,000 products. Prioritize your category and product pages, and write long, compelling product descriptions for the top 50 first. Then go from there.

You can use SEO tools like Ahrefs. Click on the ‘organic keywords’ link in the left panel, and figure out which of your product pages already rank but need a boost. Make a list and start with those.

Ahrefs Organic keywords

You can also use Sales data to help prioritize pages to start with. Cross reference your sales numbers to top ranking landing pages in Google Analytics or Ahrefs. Those pages that aren’t ranked in the top couple positions of Google, but are driving sales – are a good place to optimize. I call those low hanging fruit.

Brian Dean also points out that you should use your target keyword 3-5 times in your product pages. Then use LSI (latent semantic indexing) keywords or synonyms throughout.

Sprinkled Keywords product page seo

I agree with him. But I also think you should just write the description creatively first. Once you have a good first draft, scan it and make sure you have some keywords in it. If not, then sprinkle in some keywords.

But I prefer writing more naturally without worrying about the keywords. You describe the product in the most compelling way you can. Usually your keywords will naturally show up.

If you want to get more in depth with eCommerce SEO, you can spend countless hours just researching all the things you can do and how to implement the changes.

In my 14 years of eCommerce and SEO experience, I have seen SEO agencies work on technical factors for 6 months before ever building backlinks or content. It is constantly the reason why people are turned off by experiences they have with ‘experts’.

I know a great upmarket SEO agency – Propecta, founded by Nate Dame –  that mostly works with Fortune 500 clients. They have an 80/20 rule that I agree with wholeheartedly.

It basically says that they work on 20% Technical SEO and 80% Engagement SEO, because engagement SEO is the effective content based part of their framework that aligns with how Google serves users. Their reasoning is that Google’s #1 goal is an amazing user experience. Which is the entire reason that Rank Brain was born.

That – my eCommerce friend – is why writing amazing, high quality product page content is my #1 eCommerce SEO tip.

 

 

Bryan Robinson, Ecommerce SEOAbout Bryan Robinson

Bryan Robinson is the founder and SEO Director of Bryan E. Robinson Consulting. Bryan has over 14 years experience in eCommerce & SEO. Bryan has worked with mid-market to Fortune 100 businesses.

(11) Comments
  1. I am about to open an e-store to complement my two existing books and an upcoming release. This article drove home the key points I haven’t found elsewhere in my search for optimizing web searches—content, content, content. It makes sense, especially in light of ever-changing algorithms on Google and other search engines. I strive for high quality content, but your article drove home the point that you need to stand out from the competition. The J. Peterman analogy was fantastic and reminded me of both the catalogs and Seinfeld (It even made me think of buying a pair of sunglasses so you know the catalog description works).

    In terms of getting high-quality content writers, do you have any kind of screening process or one you’d recommend? I know there are various e-lance services, but are there any you’d specifically recommend? Are there any you’d recommend avoiding. Also, what kind of agreement do you have with content writers in terms of intellectual property? Do they perform on a work-for-hire basis where their content belongs to the buyer? That would seem to be the best approach.

    When it comes to SEO, how do you track the changes in search algorithms. Also, what are some good indicators your content is reaching an audience? I’ve often wondered about various analytics and how to tell if people are spending time on your site. As you mention, it’s about more than just clicks—it’s also about people spending time to read your content and enjoy the experience enough to make the next click to the product page. I also liked your advice to make the product page appealing too. I wish more sellers did that.

    Lots of questions I hope you can answer. I enjoyed the article and plan on incorporating it into my own business.

    1. Thanks Michael!

      To answer your question I have had great success and great failures over the years outsourcing content. If you do not have a content team (many businesses do not) then I would recommend finding a freelancer. Upwork is my current all-around favorite, although you can find quality freelancers on Freelancer.com and even Craigslist.

      I would definitely stick with a Freelance platform where you can truly verify quality by checking the freelance writer’s portfolio. Personally, if I am writing about a product like Survival Gear, I like to try and find a writer who has a knack for the outdoors. But that’s not critical. A great content writer is a great researcher, and the research is important.

      Stay away from $5 gigs and check the reviews (thoroughly) on a content writing agency. Either way, you will likely need to copy-edit the content before you launch it. This gives you the chance to add a little bit of expert insight, while checking for grammar and voice.

      Yes, you definitely want to own the content once it is written. That is the norm these days.

      As far as tracking, you can go directly into Google analytics in the ‘Landing Pages’ section (under Behavior > Site Content) and keep an eye out on your blog posts, or product pages/landing pages.

      When you are upgrading content on your Product pages, etc., you should have a set of keywords in mind that you are targeting when planning the content. There are tools like Serpbook, SEO Profiler and others where you can keep an eye on rank before and after SERP changes.

      If the optimized page increases in the SERPS, you can check the organic traffic to that page via Google Analytics, trend it, etc. But if you have an eCommerce site, you want to have eCommerce tracking turned on so you can have attribution as well. If you gain rank, and traffic, but no sales – there’s another problem. You would be targeting the wrong keywords, or you have some conversion issues.

      As far as visual analytics, Crazy Egg has some great heatmap software that lets you see how visitors click and scroll through your site.

      Hope that helps!

      Bryan Robinson

  2. It’s been said to death but so many people still don’t understand that content is indeed kind! And even more than that, Google (and other search engines) are looking for amazing content and will actively penalize bad content now more than ever.

    I remember that a few years back (before Google started doing it’s thing) bad content was ranking in almost all niches. Fast forward some years and now it’s getting harder and harder to see anything but great content on the first page of Google so things are definitely going in a clear direction.

    Thanks for the post!

  3. Hi Bryan,

    Thanks for answering my questions and doing so promptly. It’s such a rapidly changing business world that it can be difficult to keep up with things. However, as you’ve shown, there are some time-tested techniques that work regardless of where technology is at. For instance, J. Peterman’s high-quality content model worked in the catalog era and can be applied today. It’s refreshing to see content like yours online and I look forward to reading more blogs. As I mentioned in my first post, I also plan on implementing some of your advice in my business plan. The software tools you mention sound interesting and I will be checking them out. As for content writers I’ll have to look into Upwork. I’ve never heard of it, but again, the market continues to change so it can be troublesome keeping up on things. Are there any media sites you like that discuss the latest e-lancing services? It sounds like I’ll have to spend some time looking things over at the end of the year. I’m going to review my options and chart a course for 2018. 2017 has been good, but with these tips, I think 2018 will be even better. Don’t know if I’ll end up on a sitcom like J. Peterman, but you never know.

    1. No problem!

      Upwork is a good place to find VAs (virtual assistants) or seasoned SEO writers. I have also had good success with BKAContent, which is U.S. based.

      But, keep in mind, you really are better off writing your core content, in other words, the stuff that you want to be awesome. You can’t replace that with a freelancer’s work (most of the time).

      If you are going to outsource, then provide a solid list of topic ideas, produce an outline, compare to similar content online and make sure you copy edit the piece and add your own flavor.

      When it comes to Product page descriptions, you can outsource that all day long to an agency or freelancer. But – still – make sure you give them good direction and copy edit to provide your own voice (if that is missing from the final draft).

  4. The description of those glasses on Peterman’s website was amazing! I can’t believe someone actually took the time to think about what they were going to write to present a pair of sunglasses! Who wouldn’t want to buy from this kind of a website/store?

    1. Absolutely! At very least, it is a stand-out example of high quality content – from a completely different perspective.

  5. Isn’t Brian Dean amazing? He knows so much about SEO and he writes in a way that even a complete beginner would understand. I’m sure you know this, but he wrote a magnificent article about the 200 ranking factors that Google takes into account – I think everyone and their dog should read that and follow its advice. I try to write by placing myself in my reader’s shoes. What does he want? What would he like and what would he hate? Sometimes I end up with amazing content that I’m proud of and other times it’s just good, but I always aim to offer something special.

    1. Damian, I absolutely know about top 200 ranking factors. It is one of his perfect examples of the famous Skyscraper link-building technique (made famous by Brian Dean).

      I agree about ‘something special’. That usually differentiates your content from the pack.

  6. WOW! I wasn’t expecting you/Brian Dean to say we need to write 1000+ word product descriptions! That’s insanely hard most of the time! I understand why this would work well and help build a brand, but it’s easier said than done. I will try to expand my descriptions from the 100-200 words they have now and try to go over 400 or 500 words but getting past 1k will be very, very hard.

    1. I agree Robert. He was definitely speaking from a ‘best case scenario’ perspective. And I would try best to follow the 1k rule on your top 5-10 most important or highest value products. But 400-500 is often very good on a product page, especially if most of your competitors are at 100-200.

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